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HCJP TAKES SUO MOTU NOTICE ON ARY NEWS CHANNEL PROGRAM "AB TAK"

Dated: 14-August-2013

The Hon’ble Chief Justice of Pakistan has taken notice of the ARY News Channel program “Ab Tak” hosted by Ms Sadaf Abdul Jabbar telecast on 13.08.2013 on a note of the Registrar. In the said program video of attack on the Ziarat Residency was shown. The Hon’ble Chief Justice of Pakistan has directed for hearing of the above matter on 15.08.2013 at Branch Registry Quetta along with Constitution Petition No. 77/2010. The note of the Registrar is reproduced below:-
 
“As per HCJ direction, the Chairman, PEMRA was asked to provide us a CD/DVD, together with transcript, of the Programme/Talk Show titled ‘shown on the ARY News TV Channel on 13.8.2013. The Anchor Ms Sadaf Abdul Jabbar conducted the show with Zahid Hamid and Raza Roomi as discussants. The Programme starts with a visual disclaimer as under:

“Disclaimer
Its our responsibility not to present opinion as facts. As long as distinction between fact and opinion is clear. As part of ARY philosophy we bring diverse opinions to enrich and empower our viewers. This program may contains opinions of host and guest which do not necessarily reflect that of the organization. For more information and give feedback visit our website: www.arynews.tv”
 
The Anchor starts the Programme by saying that she is showing selected visuals of the video hosted on the Internet and that she has withheld some parts of the video, which are not fit to view by the general public. The video reveals that contrary to the claims made by the security agencies that the Ziarat Residency wherein Quaid-e-Azam spent his last days was attacked by the terrorists with rockets fired/bombs, etc, whereas an actual fact it was exploded from within as the terrorists/militants were carrying gas cylinders. She states that the militants entered the venue after killing the two guards on duty and carried out the operation. There were about 5 – 6 militants involved who were wearing masks on their faces, equipped with the latest weapons/bombs, having gas cylinders in their hands. They started breaking the frames of photographs and then collected the photographs and other articles in one place, sprayed petrol over it and put it on fire. The militants are also shown lowering the national flag and tearing the same and raising instead the flag of Balochistan Libration Army (BLA). Thereafter, a massive blast occurred and the Residency caught fire/collapsed. In the background of the video, it is shown that the same has been made by the BLA.
 
2.         After showing these visuals, she invited comments from Zahid Hamid who blames the increasing incidents of militancy/violence on the political leadership for being ineffective and the Judiciary for failing to convict the accused persons involved in heinous incidents of violence/militancy. Raza Roomi also gives his comments but these were limited to the current situation on boarder with India . He argues for handling the situation in a manner to resolve the Kashmir dispute and achieve other objectives through peaceful means.
 
3.         Obviously, as acknowledged by the Anchor, only selected parts of the video were shown giving gory details of the sacrilegious attack on the national monument known as Quaid-e-Azam Residency and the profane acts of burning the photographs/national flag etc. No doubt, for an ordinary viewer, the narrations of events/video clips are fairly disturbing. The Programme must have hurt the feelings/sentiments of the people who watched it. Showing such material seems to be infringement of the provisions of the Constitution/Law.  Article 5 of the Constitution states as under:
 
“(1)      Loyalty to the State is the basic duty of every citizen.
            (2)       Obedience to the Constitution and law is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan .”
 
4.         On the other hand Article 19A of the Constitution provides that:
            “Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.“
 
5.         Similarly, Article 19 of the Constitution provides that:
 
          “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offence.”
 
6.         Undoubtedly, the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press are qualified subject to law and other requirements. Various laws qualify the freedom of expression. However, the PEMRA Rules 2009 made under Section 39 of the PEMRA Ordinance 2002 and the Code of Conduct for Media Broadcasters or Cable TV Operators Programmes made under said rules states that no programme shall be aired which:
 
       “1(e)    is likely to encourage and incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national or anti-state attitudes;

        1(j)       brings into contempt Pakistan or its people or tends to undermine its integrity or solidarity as an independent and sovereign country;
 
         1(n)     anything which tends to glorify crime or criminals;“
 
 
7.        Furthermore, Section 11-W of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 also puts restrictions on dissemination of objectionable material and the same is made punishable offence.
 
 
8.      It may be noted that the Supreme Court passed an order in Constitution Petition No. 77/2010 (President Balochistan High Court Bar Association v. Federation of Pakistan and others) reported as 2012 SCMR 1958, wherein reliance is also placed on Section 11-W of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and relevant portion thereof is reproduced as under:

“…49(12).      Mr. S.M.Zafar, learned counsel appearing for the FC had placed on record sufficient material, perusal whereof suggests that whenever there is any incident of killing innocent persons both uniformed and civilian, the newspapers come forward to issue publication regarding the responsibility be different organizations which increases a sense of insecurity among the people of Balochistan. Such publication is contrary to the provisions of section 11-W of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 which reads as under:
          
“Printing, publishing, or disseminating any material to incite hatred or giving projection to any person convicted for a terrorist act or any proscribed organization or an organization placed under observation or anyone concerned in terrorism.— (1) A person commits an offence if he prints, publishes or disseminates any material, whether by audio or video-cassettes or by written, photographic, electronic, digital, wall-chalking or any other method which incites religious, sectarian or ethnic hatred or gives projection to any person convicted for a terrorist act, or any person or organization concerned in terrorism or proscribed organization or an organization placed under observation:

Provided that a factual news report, made in good faith, shall not be construed to mean “projection” for the purposes of this section.”
 
49(13).            We are told that in this behalf restraint order has also been passed by the High Court of Balochistan, therefore, we confirm the order which has been passed by the High Court of Balochistan that in future the above provision of law shall be followed strictly both by the electronic and print media….”
 
9.         From the above, it is obvious that the ARY News Channel has telecast a video, which gives gory details depicting acts of sacrilege /profanity and unnecessary attempting to sensationalize the incident taken place two months before. The HCJ may therefore consider taking up this issue on 15.08.2013 in the Constitution Petition No.77/2010.”
 
On perusal of the above note of the Registrar the Hon’ble Chief Justice has passed the following order:-
 

Instant note may be treated as CMA. Notice to Attorney General and Advocate General Balochistan be issued. Similarly, notice be issued to C.E.O of ARY through expeditious mode of service for 15.08.2013 to appear and explain as to why proceedings in accordance with the Constitution and law may not be ordered against ARY in the national and public interest.
 
Notice be also issued to Chairman PEMRA to appear in person and explain as to what action is called for in view of the above facts and circumstances, under the law.

 
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